The title of "Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival" refers to an old Japanese proverb about making the best of a bad situation or transforming crisis into opportunity. Japan is no stranger to crisis, or to monumental "bending," but will the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 serve as a catalyst for transformation and, if so, leading where?

Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival, David Pilling, ALLEN LANE

David Pilling, former Tokyo bureau chief for The Financial Times (2001-08), has written a superb book on contemporary Japan that, better than any other I have read, manages to get the reader inside the skin of Japanese society. Full disclosure, Pilling is a good friend and I commented on early drafts of this astutely observed account. But trust me, this is a great read brimming with insights and should shoot to the top of your reading list.